Family with child buying food at grocery store

Where consumers shop for their wellness products has changed considerably since the 1990s, when we first became immersed in the study of America’s health and wellness culture. The internet was in its infancy, and Amazon was known as an online bookseller in those days. The supermarket channel dominated the market for groceries, and it commanded a significant share of the personal care and household products as well. While the grocery channel is still commonly used, other retail channels, including club stores, supercenters, mass discounters, natural food stores, online retailers, and specialty retailers, have all made significant inroads.

Today, while “wellness” has become a most ubiquitous term, cultural assumptions about what health and wellness encompasses continue to evolve, especially as consumers gain greater awareness of the dynamic connections between body and mind within a national mood that feels generally anxious and uncertain.

Many of these attitudes and behaviors influence how consumers shop for health and wellness products. Consistent with earlier wellness research, our Health + Wellness 2019: From Moderation to Mindfulness report finds that how consumers shop is a reflection of their health and wellness values, but due to barriers of time, money, and the everyday demands of living, they usually find themselves having to make trade-offs in their shopping. They use heuristic, practical cues as shorthand for getting the healthiest products within the limitations of their lifestyle and resources.

We know that consumers’ views on health and wellness continue to evolve, and their shopping behaviors and preferences for retailers are shifting as well.

Food Sourcing for Health + Wellness: Cross-Channel Shopping Is the Norm

Consumers now shop multiple channels for their health and wellness products. The grocery channel has lost share to a myriad of other channels and is no longer the top go-to channel for health and wellness food shopping. As the following chart shows, Supercenters/Mass Merchandisers (Walmart, Target, etc.) and traditional Grocery (Albertsons, Safeway, Kroger, etc.) capture the most trips and shoppers across all channels. Within the channels, Health + Wellness 2019 finds that the top five “best” retailers for healthy items, as ranked by shoppers, were Whole Foods, Amazon, Wegmans, Sprouts Markets, and Walmart.

Retailer Performance in H&W purchasing

In addition to exercise and medicine, the categories of food, beverages, and supplements have been the traditional avenues through which consumers have approached daily healthy living with consequential influence on shopping. Consumer priorities in these categories have shifted toward finding items that signal increased personalization to health and wellness needs. In addition, mindfulness has become central to consumers’ visions of healthy living.

Retail channels prove popular for meeting health and wellness needs. Mass, Club, and Drug channels tend to carry a broader array of non-food health and wellness products and are more often used for such shopping by all consumers. Consumers closer to the Core of the World of Wellness (those most active in that lifestyle) tend to shop both more retailers overall and more retailers for health and wellness products.

Barriers to Purchasing

Despite retailers’ efforts, many consumers — particularly Millennials — still see health and wellness products as cost-prohibitive. Being perceived as “too expensive” is the primary concern for consumers purchasing health and wellness products.

Trusted private label health and wellness products are a growing solution to this barrier, as is online shopping. Amazon has emerged as a contender in meeting health and wellness shopper needs, performing extremely well on value, selection, and discovery.

With price representing such a barrier, quality private labels from trusted retailers have emerged as an appealing value equation for many wellness shoppers. Health + Wellness 2019 finds that almost half of consumers use private label health and wellness brands, a 10% increase from 2013. Shoppers tell us that these brands now offer many of the quality cues of name brands.

With more options to choose from, consumers perceive quality health and wellness tiers within private brands and categories just as they do for name brands.

• Trader Joe’s has the quality cues — organic, simple ingredients — that many consumers seek, and it carries a wide range of specialty health and wellness products and ingredients.

• Costco’s Kirkland Signature private label brand is a trusted supplement and OTC source.

• Kroger’s Simple Truth and Whole Foods Market’s 365 also get consumers’ credit for having a wide range of affordable, high-quality health and wellness products.

Within retail settings overall, consumers continue to seek the best-value equation of good selection, good prices, and good quality:

• The range of natural/organic and wellness-oriented private label products has grown to meet this need, with almost half of consumers purchasing them — an all-time high.

• Among retailers, drugstores, Walmart, and Costco are best at converting their regular shoppers to health and wellness shoppers.

• However, Amazon often performs better than these and most other retailers for health and wellness shopping, including selection, value, and discovery.

In the days ahead, for all retailers catering to health and wellness shoppers, maintaining a trusted, high-quality private label is likely essential to competing in today’s health and wellness market, especially as Amazon emerges as a contender there.

Health + Wellness 2019

With all this, and more, Health + Wellness 2019: From Moderation to Mindfulness is an essential report for any company with a stake in the health and wellness space. LEARN MORE